Thursday, January 17, 2013

Ms. Undercover

Continuing on from the topic of voyeurism and photography that I brought up yesterday, I thought it might be interesting to write something about a part of me that I doubt I've ever addressed on here. It rarely occurs to me, primarily since it hasn't been a huge part of my life for quite a while. But when I think about it, at a young age it did play a pretty significant role in my life.

When I was little, I loved to play pretend. I dressed up as a princess or as Esmeralda from The Hunchback of Notre Dame, I drew diner food and put it on a plate to serve to my mom while she was doing work on her computer in the evenings. Some nights we played movie theater and I'd serve candy and popcorn to her, working at a till with fake paper money and plastic coins.

One pretend game that often slips my mind, however, was when I played the role of detective.

It must've started with Blue's Clues. Not a show that feeds off of suspense or any real form of mystery like most detective texts, but the idea of searching for "clues" and figuring out visual riddles must have appealed to me.

Though I used to defend myself against any claim that might state that I was a fan of the show, I watched it regularly. Even now, it remains one of my favorite children's shows on television, a testament to its early effect on me.

My interest in Blue's Clues went further than that of an ordinary viewer. At one point in my life, I had my own Handy Dandy Notebook complete with green crayon. I would draw Blue's paw prints on wide-ruled paper, cut out the drawings and then put them all over my house. No one ever wanted to play the game with me, though, and I didn't quite understand the intricacies of creating my own "clues" that culminated in a solution.

But it was the idea of being on the searching end of the story - not the one who put the clues down, but the one who solved them - that appealed to me. Which is, I guess, why the idea of playing Blue's Clues on my own lost its appeal. I stopped playing the game almost as soon as I'd started.

The detective work, however, did not stop there. After watching Home Alone for the first time in my youth, I decided I might use the Rube Goldberg-esque tactics to become a sort of surveillance guru within the confines of my own house.

I would tape string to my door and its frame as stealthily as I could so I could be sure that I would know if someone walked in while I was away. I would also apply tape loosely to the doorknob, knowing that if someone were to open my door that they would smash the tape down making it unmistakable that they had entered the room.

It's not like I was being particularly protective of my room - I knew that if anyone walked into it while I was away that it posed no threat to me. But I liked the idea of testing out these methods, finding out whether someone had been into my space while I was gone even if it really made no difference.

The techniques never became more sophisticated than that, though I did own a spy kit that included a flashlight, binoculars and a few other odds and ends. For a while I had my eye on a toy surveillance camera, but I doubt I pursued it very adamantly.

Over the years, though, I changed along with my interests. I no longer taped my doorknob or hid paw prints anywhere.

Which brings me to today. What made me consider this on this day of all days was an event in one of my classes. In the course, we've been divided into tribes (like in Survivor), through which we compete for rewards and immunity from quizzes (and eventually our midterm). One of our competitions - which is ongoing - is to figure out a series of clues through various forms of decoding. It was the reason that I spent much of my class time today working on a cryptoquip.

And strangely enough, after all these years, it was still fun.

Maybe it isn't strange, though. Journalism (my current occupational path), after all, affords me a similar opportunity to stealthily observe others. I can learn about them, write about them, photograph them, etc. In the same way that a detective collects information, I have the power as a writer to research my subject. And as a journalist, I have the added luxury of being able to interview most people (without interrogating them).

So I guess I am a detective of sorts. I don't have to go undercover, but I do have the power to learn about things that interest me - and I still love exercising the ability to figure out quizzes on logic. Even though I'm not private eye, my eye is still pretty sharp. And that's pretty cool, I think.

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